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India’s troubled history of vaccination

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On June 14, 1802, three-year-old Anna Dusthall became the first child in India to successfully receive the smallpox vaccine. Only the barest details are known about Dusthall— she was a healthy girl, possibly of mixed racial identity, “remarkably good tempered” — a trait crucial to the vaccination’s success — and, from the pus that formed on her skin upon vaccination, five more children were vaccinated in the city of Bombay. Thereon, enough vaccine material was collected using her lymph and sent to Poona, Surat, Hyderabad, Ceylon, Madras and more places along the coast and the Deccan. Dr Helenus Scott, the physician who vaccinated her, hoped that with the availability of the vaccine, “one of the greatest evils that has afflicted humanity” would be diminished or even extinguished. His wish would take root, but not before a confusing century, riddled with challenges and challengers, passed by. As recent research indicates, the history of smallpox vaccination in colonial India wasn’t a sim

Covid-19 vaccine private-govt split worries doctors

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The health ministry hasn't explained the criteria to decide how the 11 million doses of Covishield, and 5.5 million of Covaxin would be split between states   The nationwide Covid-19 vaccination drive starts on Saturday amid speculation among some doctors whether the home-grown vaccine, which is yet to prove its efficacy, is being sent to public institutions that have fewer opportunities to question the decision. The doctors who have questioned the inclusion of the home-grown Covaxin from Bharat Biotech alongside the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine at the start of the inoculation campaign say the proposed split of the two vaccines in Delhi has amplified their concerns. Six government hospitals in Delhi will receive Covaxin while all the 42 private hospitals will receive the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, Covishield, produced in India by the Serum Institute of India, according to a document received by the sites. While government district hospitals will also receive Covishield with the priv

Preparing India for tomorrow’s pandemics

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Early detection is key to minimising health and economic burdens Chandra Mohan The history of mankind is replete with ravaging pandemics that have wiped out civilisations. Now Covid-19 has spread to more than 180 countries, infected upwards of 83 million, and killed 1.8 million people in just one year. In India, in 1918 the Spanish Flu killed more than 13 million in just three months. And within the last year the country has reported more than 10 million Covid cases and 1.48 lakh deaths. Insights provided by Pasteur’s germ theory of disease, rapid advances in the development of new anti-microbial drugs and vaccines, improved housing, sanitation, and clean drinking water have dramatically reduced the burden of infectious diseases over time. Life expectancy in India increased from 32 years in 1947 to 69 years in 2020 leading to the illusion that the scourge of infectious diseases has been conquered. Nothing could be further from the truth. Increasing drug resistance, newly emerging infec

Govt doctors in UP must serve in PMHS cadre after doing PG for 10 years or pay Rs 1 cr fine

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  In a bid to check the depleting number of specialists in the Provincial Medical and Health Services (PMHS), the UP has made it mandatory for government doctors seeking the NOC to pursue post-graduate courses to serve in the cadre for at least 10 years. Those who don't do so will have to pay back Rs 1 crore as penalty to the government. "As per the rule, the in-service doctors who undertake PG courses will have to give in writing that they would return to the primary cadre upon completion of their programme and serve for a minimum period of 10 years. In case they fail, they will have to pay a fine of Rs 1 crore to the state exchequer,” said additional chief secretary Amit Mohan Prasad. Rules in this regard had been framed through an order issued by the Yogi Adityanath government in April 2017. Prasad issued a fresh order on Thursday to enforce this order strictly. The same order also stated that in-service doctors who leave the PG course mid-way will be debarred from taki

Allopathy & ayurveda: A study in difference

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Ayurveda practitioners are seeking equivalence with allopathic doctors in doing certain surgeries, but there seems to be a vast difference in the amount of training received in the two systems. Everything from the minimum number of beds in teaching hospitals to bed occupancy and the outpatient attendance required in a medical college to be allowed to do undergraduate and postgraduate training is much less for ayurveda colleges than for allopathic ones. Barely a quarter of the 414 ayurveda colleges have 100 seats. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of UG ayurveda seats are in colleges with 60 seats or less, which need to have just a 60-bedded teaching hospital with 40% occupancy, or about 24 beds occupied. Of the 60 beds, beds that must be kept aside for shalakya tantra and shalya tantra (surgeries) are just 25. In comparison, almost all MBBS colleges have at least 100 MBBS seats and for that they need a 500-bed teaching hospital with 75% occupancy (375 beds) and 120 beds kept aside for general

A misguided policy that cuts deep into patient safety

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It is impossible for Ayurveda to incorporate surgical techniques while ignoring the other domains of modern medicine The basic requirement of medical practice is the safety of the patient. Surgery is a branch of medicine in which poor training can have dramatic and disastrous results. This is the strongest argument against the ill-advised move of the government of India to allow graduates in Ayurveda to practise surgery. Apprenticeship is key Surgery in the present era is an interdisciplinary endeavour. A well-trained anaesthesiologist keeps the patient free of pain. Other specialist doctors address any other illnesses that the patient has before surgery can be safely performed. The well-trained surgeon must have a good knowledge of the structure of the human body in health and disease. This is one branch of medicine where knowledge can only be acquired through apprenticeship — that is, the learner needs to be guided by an expert. It takes many years and much exposure before a gr